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US Forest Service Researcher Uses Science to Fight Forest Fires

Dr. Terrie Benavidez Jain in wildland firefighting gear doing field work on the Boise Basin Experimental Forest in IdahoDr. Terrie Benavidez Jain in wildland firefighting gear doing field work on the Boise Basin Experimental Forest in Idaho

Dr. Terrie Benavidez Jain in wildland firefighting gear doing field work on the Boise Basin Experimental Forest in Idaho

With wildfires that raged out of control this fire season, a year of “devastating conflagrations” seems to be the only way to describe such massive destruction on the nation’s forested lands. And scientists who know something about limiting the power of these forest infernos are needed more than ever.

Lucky for us, Terrie Benavidez Jain, a U.S. Forest Service scientist, has answers to help reduce the impacts of fire on forested lands. In fact, researching and studying the science of forest fires is something Jain has come to know quite well throughout her impressive career.

As a research forester at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Moscow, Idaho, Jain is scientifically examining ways to mitigate potential causes and effects of forest fires. She is working on a research publication that documents the best mitigation practices for federal, state and local land management agencies.

An award-winning scientist, Jain grew up in northern New Mexico, and spent much of her childhood enjoying outdoor activities like camping and fishing with her family in the forests of Tres Piedras. Because New Mexico universities do not have forestry programs, Jain enrolled at the University of Idaho, College of Natural Resources and received a Ph.D. in silviculture and landscape ecology. During her college career, there were few women in forestry and even fewer Hispanics in her program.

Jain’s love for the outdoors has guided her decision to make a career out of working with trees. For more than 30 years, she has been working for the Forest Service doing everything from planting trees and conducting prescribed fires to experimental field work.

“Ultimately my job has been to provide essential research that land managers need to protect our nation’s forests and resources,” said Jain.

In 2007, Jain was the first Hispanic American, and second female to receive the National Award for Outstanding Contributions in the Field of Silviculture. She was recently recognized as a National Accessibility Honoree for her individual commitment and leadership in the advancement and integration of accessibility, among other notable recognitions.

“I feel my work ethic is rooted in my Spanish culture, which keeps me grounded through my family’s connection to the land,” said Jain. “I feel most proud when someone tells me that the work I’m doing makes a difference.”

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